Dunleavy names Alaska Republican chairman as his chief of staff

Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy speaks to the Alaska Miners Association about his plans for his administration. He named Tuckerman Babcock to be his chief of staff and transition chairman. (Photo by Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy speaks to the Alaska Miners Association on Thursday about his plans for his administration. He named Tuckerman Babcock to be his chief of staff and transition chairman. (Photo by Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)

Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy told mining industry leaders that Alaska is open for business Thursday. He also named Alaska Republican Party Chairman Tuckerman Babcock to be his chief of staff and chairman of the transition team in Dunleavy’s first public appearance since Election Day.

Dunleavy said he’s known Babcock for a long time and trusts him.

Dunleavy also named his former campaign manager Brett Huber as his senior policy adviser. And he said he’ll be looking for smart, hard-working people to serve as commissioners.

“We’re going to work closely together, and we’re going to form a very close team to make sure that everything we’ve talked about in moving this state forward (happens): resource development, public safety, restoring trust in the permanent fund, the issue of the permanent fund, making sure that we have jobs and opportunity for everyone,” said Dunleavy, his voice hoarse from a cold that began the last day of the campaign. 

Dunleavy told the Alaska Miners Association annual convention that he will work to encourage developing Alaska’s natural resources.

Dunleavy noted his own family, including his daughters, have worked at Red Dog Mine in the Northwest Arctic Borough.

“You’re going to have to put on your seat belts, because this is not going to be a slow crawl,” he said. “We’re going to pick up speed here real fast. We’re going to be working with the industry across the board. And we’re going to be working internally in my administration to make sure that when we start to look at fines and possibilities — that the attitude is (not) going to be, ‘Meh, maybe not.’ That the attitude is going to be, ‘How can we make this happen?’”

Dunleavy answered questions from reporters after his speech about how he’ll approach different policies.  

Dunleavy said the state will be able to pay out full permanent fund dividends under the formula used until PFDs were cut the last three years.

Dunleavy also said he’s interested in transferring some Alaska state land to private ownership.

“We are working on some ideas regarding land,” he said. “We have 100 million acres of land. Very little of it is in private hands.  And we got to make a decision as a state as to what we want to do with our own state land.”

Dunleavy said he expects to put his own stamp on the state budget that will be introduced two weeks after his Dec. 3 swearing in.

And Dunleavy described how his administration will approach Medicaid: “Review it. See how we can improve upon it. Make sure that it’s sustainable. Take a real hard look at Medicaid to see if it’s something we can sustain forward. Everybody wants something. We know that. But if we’re not able to sustain programs,  I think it’s kind of a disappointment for the people of Alaska to rely on something that we can’t sustain.”

Dunleavy said he’ll work with outgoing Gov. Bill Walker on a smooth transition. Babcock says the transition team will announce Friday how Alaskans can give their ideas for the new administration.

Dunleavy also announced his transition website.

Alaska’s Energy Desk’s Nat Herz contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story provided an incorrect date for Dunleavy’s swearing-in ceremony. The governor-elect will be sworn in on Dec. 3.

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